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Impound fees here are out of control

First, let me say I do not condone illegal vehicles on our highways. A few weeks ago a friend was stopped in the city of Bemidji and had her car impounded. I have no problem with that. What I do have a problem with is what followed. She had recently paid $2,700 for the vehicle. If she had the money, she would have taken care of the problems. The events that unfolded next could be scripted into a low budget mafia flick.

The impound fee, $25 per day, soon grew to $600. The impound lot owner refused to negotiate a lower price so the lady called to see if I could help. I spoke to the owner of the impound lot and he agreed to release the vehicle for $400 cash. We came up with the money and she retrieved her car. I wonder how he recorded that transaction.

I can understand a reasonable towing fee and a reasonable storage fee. This impound company has a small lot, not guarded, tucked in the woods. When we arrived to get the car, nobody was present. When I spoke to the owner on his mobile phone, he told me he was about 25 miles away and for us to return in a few hours — so much for security. I imagine his overhead is less than one dollar per day, per vehicle. If one adds another dollar for profit, he is doubling his money.

The majority of people who have their vehicles impounded are driving illegally because they do not have the money to make them legal. So how can they possibly be expected to come up with an impound fee that accrues at $25 per day? What happens to the hundreds of vehicles that are not claimed each year? Does Beltrami County pay the impound fees and then take ownership of the vehicles and sell at auction? Or does the impound lot take ownership of vehicles that may be worth several thousand dollars, basically stealing them from the owner who cannot cough up the blackmail fee?

Wendell Affield